Tag Archives: improve marriage

Are You Jealous of Your Friend’s Divorce?

Did you know divorce is contagious? If you have a divorced friend, you are 147 percent more likely to get a divorce! One reason is that when a friend or family member divorces, it normalizes divorce and makes it seem more acceptable. Sometimes, they can even make it look fun. But there’s nothing fun about divorce, especially after the first three months of freedom wear off.

I was asked by fellow blogger Stacy Geisinger (StacyKnows.com) to write about these feelings of jealousy which can be common among the still-married friends. These friends may see the new doors and possibilities open for the divorced person, as well as their new found lack of responsibilities and the freedom to go and do as they please.

I don’t have the experience of being a divorced woman (although I’ve had friends and family divorce), but the following article that was recently published on Huffington Post is a must-read for anyone even remotely considering divorce: Wasbeens and Wives: 7 reasons to stay married. It’s funny and serious at the same time.

Don’t be tricked by the shiny new opportunities of someone with divorce papers still hot off the printer. Here’s what your friends probably won’t admit:

1. Going out with single friends is fun, but just for a short while. After that, they realize that true companionship has a lot more going for it than the singles scene does. Loneliness is not just about being alone; it’s about not having a mate to share the joys and sorrows of life and child rearing.

2. Being a single parent is harder than almost any other job. Helping kids through a divorce is even more difficult than negotiating with your ex. Children of divorce die an average of five years earlier than people who grew up in intact families. And, they have more academic, mental, emotional and health problems. The instability of divorce affects the foundation of their identity, and that instability is never completely repaired. Even if your kids are in college, a parental divorce can be very difficult for them.

3. When a divorced woman is ready to date again, she often finds herself dealing with many of the same issues with men as she did with her ex, plus some new ones. You don’t get rid of your relationship problems with divorce; you just trade them for new problems. (Read We all married the wrong person.)

4. Most divorcees are not living high on the hog with fat alimony checks. In fact, their standard of living generally declines if they weren’t the breadwinner. The fights about money after the divorce are usually much worse than the ones that occurred during the marriage. Now, there are just more people involved.

5. Down the road after the anger has dissipated, two-thirds of divorced people admit they and their spouse didn’t work hard enough to save the marriage. They face lifelong wounds and often regret the decision. In fact, they are often jealous of you, the married friend, the one with a husband waiting for you at home after you go out for drinks with your girlfriends.

The truth is when we have problems in our marriage, we are quick to blame our partner and quicker yet to rationalize why we are blameless. But if we make the decision to focus on pleasing our partner and meeting our own needs (instead of making our mate responsible for meeting all of them and “making us happy”, the relationship dynamic changes and improves.

In part 2, I will address how to keep your marriage interesting and lively so that you aren’t tempted to be jealous when a friend “breaks free” of their marriage.

I wrote this as a guest post for StacyKnows.

Part 2–How to keep your marriage exciting so you aren’t tempted to be jealous when a friend “breaks free” of their marriage.

Have you ever been jealous of a single friend’s life?

Photo by wikipedia

4 Obvious Marriage Tips You Still May Not Be Doing

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Sometimes marriage tips are so obvious, yet we find we are not doing enough of them. My husband and I are as guilty as any couple on these. For example, business travel often separates us. Often, it takes a little while to re-acclimate to our routine and to each other.

I read these three tips in an article about keeping your marriage strong with kids, which pulled from authors Charles and Elizabeth Schmitz, of Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage. Their not-so-surprising (in my opinion) tips are things we still may not be doing, even though we know we should. Just like I know I shouldn’t be eating chocolate chip cookies, but I had two today.

  1. Time in — Whether it’s a date night or going for a walk, “you have to spend time together to keep the flame alive,” Elizabeth says. “You have to allow time for each other.”

In our case, we have lots of time in, but it’s surrounded by kids, work and home responsibilities. When we go out, we often feel rushed. We aren’t prioritizing time alone together as much as we should be. How are you doing here?

  1. Time out — Conversely, time apart is also key. “In the best marriages, spouses allow each other time for solitude, so they can think private thoughts or just get things done,” Elizabeth says.

We’ve done a little better here with both of us taking up tennis with friends. He frequently works on home projects on his own, while I do my own thing. Spouses should be able to spend this alone time as they wish (within reason, of course).

  1. Touchy, touchy — Successful couples use the “Morse code of marriage,” Charles says. “It’s called touching. It’s a substitute for talking about feelings. You are saying, ‘I love you so much I have to touch you.'”

I’ve frequently written about the tremendous effects of touch shown in research. (Read Little Touches Make Big Impact.) In my house, we probably touch more than we used to, but it’s still a surprise when one of us stops to hug or kiss during the day. We’re more used to rushing than being deliberate about that, but when he reaches over to touch me in the car, it’s a nice feeling. At first, you may have to force yourselves to touch more if it doesn’t feel natural. Eventually it will feel more normal, and you will feel more connected and unified.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T–Respect (for your partner or yourself) is one thing I’ve noticed can be lacking in many relationships. Treat your spouse with at least the same level of respect that you would treat your friends and coworkers. Use your manners. (Yes, you still have to say please and thank you, even if it’s your mate.) Don’t speak poorly about your spouse behind his/her back. Be respectful. Be patient and kind. You know that feeling you get when you spend time with friends who are interested in what you have to say? Try to project that same level of support and interest with your spouse. The couples I know who say they are best friends seem to have a strong element of respect and kindness for one another.

Photo by Photostock courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Which Foods Can Boost Libido?

“Keep the Sparks Alive” Series

Sometimes a change or dip in libido has more to do with hormone or energy levels that have changed. Other times, it’s a matter of exhaustion or being overscheduled.  Experts say particularly for women, scheduling time for date nights and intimacy is key to maintaining a strong connection.

For an increasing number of couples, ubiquitous technology and inability to unplug is making it difficult to physically connect and interact with others in a human way. (Achieve True Connectivity.) Share at least an hour of your day with your loved ones while you are disconnected from technology, including TV, cell phone or computer. (Read Is the Cell Phone Impeding Your Relationship?)

If you’re getting enough rest, and giving each other dedicated time, you might find certain foods affect your level of desire. It’s certainly worth supplementing diet before looking to modern medicine. Some foods have smells or shapes that affect us, and others can alter our body chemistry. Quite a lot of foods can have a substantial affect on our sex drive. Experiment with how certain foods make you feel.

Let’s start with my favorite. Chocolate has long been considered a love drug, because the ingredients phenylethylamine, tryptophan and anadamine make us feel good. In addition, the caffeine in chocolate may boost female libido. Dark chocolate is the most effective. A 2006 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who ate chocolate on a daily basis had higher sexual function than those who didn’t. In addition to the ingredients above, it contains serotonin to boost your mood. Husbands, you have a very good reason to keep your mates supplied with dark chocolate. Wives, a small amount is ideal.

A great summer treat, watermelon helps improve blood flow to the heart and genitalia because it is rich in citruline, which helps relax blood vessels.

A yummie vegetable that helps increase sex drive in men and women is asparagus, which is rich in folate. Folate helps increase production of histamine, which is essential to maintaining libido. Avocados also increase libidos in men and women due to their B6, folic acid and potassium levels.

Researchers believe figs, which are high in amino acids, can increase libido and increase sexual stamina.

Oysters are said to increase libido in both genders, but those who (like me) dislike them can take a zinc supplement—or they could try pumpkin seeds, also rich in zinc (and without the sliminess).

Sauerkraut is another proven libido booster, at least for men. A 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that 90 percent of men felt a noticeable libido boost after eating sauerkraut.

Eggs, nuts, chilies, nutmeg, turkey, brown rice, garlic and fish (especially salmon) all contribute to healthy sex lives for both partners.

For MEN:

Foods high in zinc boost sperm production. And naturally enhancing your diet can help maintain testosterone levels. Ideal foods include broccoli, steak, beans, bananas, pine nuts, and celery.

For WOMEN:

Libido-enhancing foods help us maintain estrogen levels. Soy has been shown to boost women’s sex drive. Please note: Women with a history of breast cancer should not eat large amounts of soy due to increase recurrence rates. Basil is said to stimulate female fertility and boost libido. Foods that help maintain testosterone levels can also help.

Effective SCENTS

The following SCENTS are helpful because they increase penile blood flow: lemons, doughnuts, and licorice. (However, eating the doughnuts has the opposite effect.) For women, smelling licorice and cucumbers or baby powder provides powerful pheromones.

Sources: You Being Beautiful by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., Libido-Increasing Food, and Love Hacks.

 Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

Husbands Must Provide Financial Leadership, says Expert

Men still call the financial shots in marriages, even though women are seen as equal in so many other areas. Furthermore, they often don’t hold themselves accountable. This is according to Peter Dunn, a financial expert who wrote this interesting article expert called An Open Letter to Husbands. It’s an honest, well-written piece on financial leadership that I would urge you to check out. Pete provides advice on three issues that get in the way of a healthy marriage when it comes to financial leadership. Did I mention he’s also a comedian? It probably helps to loosen people up a little when you’re talking about tense issues.

He sums it up for those who are having financial challenges in their marriage:  “If you are living a personal hell right now, then get out of hell. Don’t give up. Work. What’s waiting for you on the other side of financial hell is wonderful, and you can’t get there by digging deeper. You have to step up.”

I agree with his advice, but I think wives also need to be responsible for a family’s financial health and should be well aware of household financial information. If a couple has trouble making important financial decisions without arguing, they should seek help from a third party. A stable financial base provides peace for the household and can contribute to a happier marriage and family.

Visionary Marriage Book Review
I was asked to provide a review for a new book called Visionary Marriage. If you’re looking for insights on what it means to have a Christian, biblical marriage and family, Visionary Marriage by Rob and Amy Rienow fits the bill. As a Gen X pastor and his wife, the authors spent much of their marriage not fulfilling the ideal biblical marriage. Their honesty is helpful to readers as they realize no marriage is even close to perfect. The Rienows have made it their mission to teach about such counter-cultural subjects as submission, God’s job descriptions of husbands and wives, why God hates divorce, and creating a God-sized mission for your marriage. Clearly, if you’re not a Christian, this book may not be your cup of tea.

Particularly suited for engaged or newlywed couples, the book addresses topics, such as the importance of a husband’s leadership and love for his wife, as well as the wife’s need to be respectful and kind to her husband. It explains, without being judgmental, how exactly to accomplish these ideals or to make baby steps toward them. I would recommend the book for those seeking to have a strong Christian marriage based on biblical advice.  I receive no compensation for the review or sales of the book, but if you’re interested, visit Amazon.com.

Photo courtesy of photoxpress.com.

Differing Sexual Needs in Marriage

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Some men feel personally rejected if their wives don’t desire them on a daily basis. This is just one example of differing sexual needs that may catch couples off guard, say couples counselors Matt and Marilyn Stevens of ConnectEd PAIRS.

They  say that for women to be ready for sex, they need affirmation, a feeling of connection, nonsexual touch, intimacy (not the sexual kind but the deeper connection kind), and romance. How often does romance lose out after the honeymoon?

On the flip side, men have other needs to feel sexually fulfilled. These include mutual satisfaction (men want to know they can please their partner, so communicate what pleases you), connection, responsiveness (i.e., eagerness rather than passivity), initiation, and affirmation.

So, if we’re keeping score, affirmation and connection were on both lists. That means all the readers today should find something they respect or appreciate in their partner and communicate it to their partner. Don’t let another day pass without building up your spouse. And work on maintaining a strong connection—listening well, providing support and loyalty to one another, and using touch throughout the day.

Then take a look at the rest of the list and see if you have any room for improvement in the areas your partner needs.

When you married, were you surprised at how different your spouse’s needs were from your own? Next Friday, I’ll share foods and scents that can boost your libido.

LINK:
Keeping Your Marriage Strong Even with Kids

Thanks for visiting Marriage Gems. You can subscribe to ongoing marriage tips via email or RSS feed in the right column. Share with a friend who might benefit.

Are Husbands under More Pressure than Ever?

Experts are now saying working fathers are experiencing the most pressure in families, even families in which both spouses work. I’m not here to suggest wives or husbands are getting more of the brunt of lifestyle stresses. However, I think it’s helpful to discuss what kinds of pressures are most common and how they can affect marriages.

This is the final discussion of the research coming out of Time Magazine’s August issue. It shares a report by the Families and Work Institute, which surveyed 1,298 men. The report concluded that long hours at work, increasing job demands, and increasing parenting expectations are combining to make working fathers feel enormous pressure. The institute had previously found 60 percent of fathers said they had a hard time managing work and family responsibilities, while only 47 percent of working mothers said the same.

  • Men are still expected to be the breadwinners (although more women are the breadwinners as explained in this article).
  • Men are expected to be very involved parents. Many feel pressure not only to attend all their kids’ sports activities but to also coach and help them practice.
  • Today’s fathers don’t have many role models for today’s cultural expectations of domestic help. Their own fathers rarely changed diapers, cooked or cleaned, and they left the parenting to their wives. Many of them are surprised at how much they are expected to do at home after putting in long hours.

“What these new findings mean is that the widespread belief that working mothers have it the worst—a belief that engenders an enormous amount of conflict between the spouses—is simply not the open-and-shut case it once was,” says the Time article.

Men who are experiencing overwhelming stresses should discuss their feelings with their wives in a way that is not accusatory. At some point decisions about whether to continue working the long hours, or whether to stop coaching baseball, may need to be made. Perhaps lawn work is farmed out, or other family members can step in to help.

I know some families in which the woman works and handles the vast majority of child care, all of the cooking and the majority of the chores. So, I don’t believe all fathers or husbands are quite as conflicted, but it’s a cultural change that is occurring. And many wives would benefit their marriage to understand the stresses that each of them is facing.

When is the last time you had a vacation? Americans aren’t great about using their vacation time to refresh and renew. Europeans, on the other hand, believe going “on holiday” is an important part of their culture and quality of life. Taking a real break with your spouse can help both of you de-stress and begin to communicate about more than the daily agenda.

Women and men in each generation who try to stretch themselves too far eventually realize they must prioritize. Too much stress on either or both partners can be unhealthy to the individual and even more unhealthy for the marriage. Spouses who feel they are on the same team and support one another as much as possible fare much better.

What’s your solution to this age-old issue?

Related Links:
Reclaim Relaxation for Better Relationship
How is Work Load Being Distributed Between Husbands and Wives?
Who’s Marrying for Money–about the increasing number of breadwinner wives

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Unemployed Men Have Higher Divorce Rate

While our culture’s views about women working have changed substantially in recent decades, our views about men working appear not to have budged very much. Case in point, a study of more than 3,600 couples published recently in the American Journal of Sociology, which links unemployed men with higher divorce rates.

Despite the fact that more men are choosing to be stay-at-home dads while their wives work, this particular study surprised me in saying it’s still not culturally acceptable for men to be the primary care givers. Men who are not working face a greater likelihood that their wife would leave them. In addition, the men themselves were more likely to leave the relationship.

Whether a woman worked or not had no bearing on her husband’s likelihood of leaving her. However, a working woman who was very unhappy in her marriage was more likely to begin divorce proceedings than if she was unemployed. Researchers explain that these women have the resources that allow them to leave, but they said the employment itself wasn’t the source of tension.

So, there’s a bit of a dichotomy between working men and women. The reasons aren’t clear, although one possibility was that unemployed men are more likely to suffer from depression. And our cultural expectations of men appear to be still wrapped up on them being providers. (However, American women’s have outpaced men in education and income growth during the last 40 years. Read Who’s Marrying for Money?)

The study, reported in Time Magazine, is consistent with one from Ohio State, which also showed that men who don’t have a job have higher rates of leaving the relationship, and that their partners also have higher rates of leaving the relationship.

I have known some very competent stay-at-home dads with professional wives who are the breadwinners. I know it can work for many families, so I don’t want to come off as against this sort of arrangement. I think the knowledge of this research makes it clear that a couple who chooses to go this route will be going against the cultural grain and should be prepared to discuss the ongoing challenges. In addition, they should both be aware of the risk of depression, possibly from loss of social network or feeling overwhelmed by child-rearing responsibilities. They should also work hard to make the marriage a priority in the family.

One note, I don’t think the research differentiates between the men who were unemployed by choice and those who were unemployed by circumstance. It seems the latter group would have higher rates of depression.

See a summary of the study here.

Do you or your partner have experience being a stay-at-home parent? Do you think the challenges are different for men than for women? Do you think society’s views on men working are outdated or appropriate?

Related Posts:
Can women breadwinners have it all?
Are househusbands the ultimate status symbol?
Women breadwinners are more likely to be cheated on.

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com.

Marriage Education Reduces Military Divorces by Two-Thirds

There’s more evidence that marriage education works to prevent divorce. Marriage education involves teaching and practicing marriage skills such as communication, conflict management, etc., and is separate from marriage counseling or therapy.

John Crouch from The Family Law News Blog reported on a randomized study recently completed in the military which had a control group of couples that did not take classes, and randomly assigned couples who did take marriage education classes. The “PREP for Strong Bonds” program was delivered by Army chaplains. One year later, 2 percent of the couples who received marriage education divorced, while 6 percent of the control group divorced.

Other studies have also confirmed that professionally developed curricula is effective at reducing divorce, whether the education is delivered in a religious, ethnic or occupational setting.

Marriage education can be effective for engaged couples and couples who have been married for decades. Just a reminder that many organizations offer marriage education, often within different states or within religious organizations. In addition, if you can’t get away for an entire weekend,
poweroftwomarriage.com offers marriage education skills online where couples can have complete privacy and can go at their own speed.

LINKS:
The Divorce Delusion from NYT gives its take on what divorce looks like in modern America.

Related to last week’s post about how reading romance novels affects women’s relationships, a new study just came out that suggests reading romance novels may be hazardous to one’s health. (Someone seems to be on a campaign against romance novels.) The gist of it is that people who read romance novels are more likely to act like the characters in the books and eschew the use of condoms, putting them at risk for STDs or AIDS.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Elliot Nevills

At What Age Does the Romance Peter Out in a Marriage?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

For all the talk about menopause and the fear many men and women have that it will impede their sex lives, it’s the husband who usually determines how long a couple’s sex life lasts. I wanted to share an excerpt from Joe Beam’s Blog on sex in later life because this fact was a surprise to me, and it might be for you as well. (Joe is a national best-selling author who has been interviewed on many TV news programs.

“My friend Dr. Barry McCarthy is not only a brilliant expert in matters of sexuality, he also is really nice guy… Barry first opened my eyes to the fact that men are as complicated as women when it comes to sex. Early in my sexual studies I was this naive, “Well, guys are guys. We don’t have to worry about them, so let’s focus on helping the women with their sexuality.” Barry gently corrected my thinking on that.

Then he told me that for most couples it is the husband who determines when their active sex life ends. He says that 1/3 of men quit having sex at age 65. Another 1/3 at 75. He didn’t talk about that last 1/3 but I imagine we can just call them “men who die happy.”

Experience with couples affirms Barry’s knowledge. (Of course, Barry’s knowledge is based on scientific research and long experience, so they didn’t really need affirming.) By far, no matter what the age, I am asked by more women than men about how to get their spouses to be sexual again. These are women in their 20s through their 80s. (One 80-year-old caller to my radio program told me that she had outlived five husbands and the guy she is dating now is in his 50s. When she asked if I’d like to see her picture, I replied that I DEFINITELY would.

So, guys and gals, at what age in life should we cease being sexually active?

Death.

Before that, no matter what the age, it contributes to the health of husband and wife, to their bonding, to their fulfillment, and to their relationship. Thinking that stopping sex is the thing to do because you are now XX years old is wrong. You can have sex into your hundreds.

Just be careful that you don’t break a hip.”

So whether you’re in your 20s or your 80s, Joe’s admonition gives us motivation to keep the romance blooming throughout our life-long relationship. Does it surprise you that men seem to determine how long their sex lives lasts in most marriages?

Related Link:

This article by the Daily Mail in the U.K. discusses how several couples maintained passion-filled lives after 60, and why they and several experts believe that is the glue that keeps a marriage together. “The Kinsey Sex Institute states that the average 18 to 29-year-old has sex 142 times a year; 30 to 39-year-olds 86 times a year; 40 to 49-year-olds 69 times a year; and the over-50s have sex 52 times a year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Growing older in a committed relationship doesn’t have to mean a slow slide into celibacy and slippers.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault by Christian Steiniger

Wives’ Insomnia Affects Marriage More than Husbands’

Wives who have trouble sleeping report more marital problems the following day. Interestingly, insomnia in men doesn’t appear to affect the couple’s relationship, reports a new study presented at the SLEEP 2011 conference in Minnesota. The report is getting lots of buzz in places like WebMD and Today.com (see links for their full stories).  Following are some nuggets of the conclusions:

  • Wives who had trouble falling asleep were more likely to report negative interactions with their husbands the following day.
  • Husbands also rated the couple’s interactions less positively the day after their wife’s insomnia.
  • Interestingly, when husbands got less sleep, they reported more positive marital interactions the following day. That’s at least in part because they reported higher marital functioning when they had more frequent sexual activity.

So, wives reported the interactions more positively when they got more sleep, while husbands reported the interactions more positively when they had more sexual activity.

Experts surmise that women tend to be more communicative when they are under stress, and lack of sleep created stress that negatively affected the couples’ interactions.  Men, on the other hand, tend to repress or withhold negative emotions, so when they were more tired, it may not have appeared to impact the relationship as dramatically. In addition, they suggest women may be more prone to sleep disturbances, or unable to calm their thoughts down sufficiently to sleep.

Since the study was done on 35 healthy couples, it’s probable that the affect on couples having difficulties would be even more apparent.

I wouldn’t suggest this means husbands can get less sleep than wives. When my husband is tired from a difficult work schedule, we can all sense it. I also understand that it’s very poor for our health to have fewer hours of sleep than our bodies need.  I remember the days when we had babies or toddlers and one or both of us was chronically exhausted. That’s a rough time on a marriage, as many of you can attest. Even if you have to ask a friend or a relative to help out while you take a nap, please do.

Both partners, but especially wives, need to be sure they get adequate sleep to not only function well physically but also emotionally. If you have sleep difficulties, discuss it with your doctor. You might not be saving your health; you might also be saving your marriage.

I wasn’t as fast as Paul Byerly on writing about this topic. As I was catching up on blogs, I found his post to husbands: Her Sleep is Important to Your Marriage.

Photo by Leticia Wilson courtesy of PhotoXpress.com